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Bad vibrations: Neighbors to sue developer over construction damage

Bad vibrations: Neighbors to sue developer over construction damage
Cracked: Homeowner Gloria Bennett says her walls started cracking when builders began driving piles for a four-story building on an adjacent lot.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

They’re all shook up.

A group of Flatlands residents is taking a developer to court over damage to their homes that happened during the construction of a nearby homeless shelter.

Neighbors of the site at 1095 E. 45th Street say vibrations from pile drivers caused cracks in their homes’ walls and foundations. They have pleaded with the developer for months to pay for repairs, but the negotiations fell apart and now the dozen affected residents will seek justice through the courts, one neighbor said.

“Next week there will be paperwork filed,” said Gerard Brewster, a neighbor and board member of the Flatlands Flatbush Civic Association. “The heat’s been turned up and we’re expecting dividends,” he said.

Just after contractors Townhouse Builders started driving piles last summer, homeowners on nearby Glendale Court began noticing cracks appear in their homes.

Representatives of the developer, Helm Equities, told residents the cracks were cosmetic and offered to slap on some spackle, but that didn’t cut it for Brewster.

“You’re going to tell me you broke my house and it’s just cosmetic? That’s absurd,” he said.

A principal at Helm Equities disputed that point, saying the firm has been open to making repairs but homeowners have denied engineers access to their houses to assess damage.

While the two sides hash it out, neighbors said they have been living with the damage, fearing that any repairs might reduce their claims to compensation.

One woman who lives adjacent to the site, however, was forced to make repairs when melting snow began seeping into her basement through cracks that appeared during construction. She said her home was rebuilt in 2007 following a fire, and explained that there were no signs of cracks until the piling started.

“Everything was immaculate,” said Beverly Williams, whose backyard abuts the site.

City records show that builders did not follow the rules for pile-driving. The Department of Buildings charged the builders with a major violation last August for “failure to protect adjoining properties and structures during pile driving operations,” and slapped the builders with a stop work order last October for driving piles without an engineer present. A hearing on the major violation is scheduled for the end of this month.

Homeowners say they are preparing to sue because the developers will not take responsibility.

“They’re saying it’s not them, but we didn’t have these problems before,” said neighbor Troy Thompson.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Piling on: Cracks like these did not appear until pile-driving began, and neighbors say developers will not pay to fix them.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

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